Sadist Or Masochist? Mrs. Pelosi—Pick!
There’s an old joke that goes something like this.
The sadist says “Hit me!”
The masochist says, “No!”
That’s the choice that Nancy Pelosi is dealing with now.
It is quite clear that this is the case now from the president’s display of pique at the recent meeting that was supposed to be about infrastructure but turned into a well-prepared presidential tantrum and a Rose Garden diatribe claiming that Mr. Trump will not work with the Democrats as long as they are investigating him.
I believe that the Speaker was genuinely shaken by the president’s behavior. As she has said before, she knows a tantrum when she sees one, but she didn’t expect one then. I take her at her word that she’s hoping for some intervention in the president’s thinking from his family.
This gives the Speaker, the only Constitutionally-designated Democrat with real power being third in line to the presidency, a tough call to make.
She can stay the course of the multiple House investigations knowing full well that the president is trying to run out the clock on the 2020 election year run-up as well as on the patience and attention span of most Americans with regard to his putative misdeeds.
OR, she can hope that the Supreme Court compels the president to turn over the documents, tax records and the full Mueller Report to the House. Not a real good bet on that one and it too is a way to run out the clock as the various subpoenas work their way up through the judicial system. I doubt the Supreme Court will see any of these challenges before the late fall.
OR, she can throw in the towel and give Trump what he wants, impeachment proceedings. Yes, he wants to be impeached because he knows he will not be convicted, he believes it will rev up his base, he believes most Americans don’t want the spectacle of a trial in the Senate, and he wants to play the victim. After all, it worked for Mr. Clinton in 1998. Of course, Clinton had popularity numbers in the mid-60s, 20 points above Trump’s, so Trump is taking somewhat of a gamble that public opinion will go his way, but it’s a reasonable bet for him now, given the state of the evidence and the inability of the House committees to get witnesses they need before them. Especially if he’s guilty, which he believes he is not, this is a great play on his part.
So what does a clever leader do in such a situation and Mrs. Pelosi is nothing if she is not clever.
My guess is that she is going to hold the line on not impeaching at least until after the Memorial Day recess and then see what happens. If Mr. Trump allows debt ceiling discussions and budget negotiations to go forward, my suspicion is that she will be the masochist and not give Trump what he wants. She’ll make him suffer. It is going to be hard for her to hold the line as her caucus smells blood in the water and many think it is their right and their duty to impeach the president. I think she’ll hold steady—unless…
…if Mr. Trump threatens a government shutdown over the budget or debt ceiling or if things get any worse at the southern border or if Iran attacks or—you get my drift. If her hand is forced, she will allow the impeachment to go forward.
The United States federal government is in a horrible state of flux. The president is incompetent and we have just been lucky that he has not been faced with a major policy challenge or fading economy—yet.
Mrs. Pelosi is playing the adult in the room as she must. She has to keep a juvenile president from taking a wrecking ball to the normal processes of government and her own caucus from rebelling and charging over the walls of the castle toward impeachment, a trial and inevitable acquittal.
What a mess!
The real masochist here may be Mrs. Pelosi and we all get to play the sadist.